be distorted under stress. Short bridges used
one triangle truss, bisected by a “king” post.
Longer spans were tackled with an ever-growing list of strategies, some patented,
often named after their inventors. Twelve
different kinds are found in New England
bridges, including the famous Town’s Lattice
Truss of 1820, named after Ithiel Town of
Connecticut. A series of crisscrossing timbers forming multiple triangles, it was light
and incredibly strong, and Town collected
a royalty of a dollar per foot for every one
built. One upside: It was easily constructed
by relatively unskilled labor. One downside:
A minimum of two holes had to be drilled
(by hand, with an auger) and a pin driven
through thick timber at the intersection of
every element — 2,592 holes and 912 pins
for every 100 feet of bridge. All that work paid
off in sturdiness. One Town bridge, over the
Batten Kill in Vermont, was knocked off its
abutments by a flood, flipping it on its side.
It was used for months in this attitude, lying
across the river, before being righted.
But it wasn’t just engineering finesse
that made these structures special. The roof
and walls that went up to protect them also
protected people passing through from prying eyes, which is why many old-timers
called them “kissing bridges.” Deep in the
shadows, away from the cod-liver-oil advertisements and circus posters pasted inside the
entrances for all to see, young lovers might
slow their buggy or car down for a spell, leading to graffiti like this, quoted by Allen:
F. Brown, August 1892 —
I hugged Polly P. in this bridge
Didn’t Didn’t Didn’t. F. B’s a Liar!
The peace and quiet needed for such
stolen moments was hard to come by on the
big bridges that provided crucial crossings.
Some were “double-barreled” bridges, which
allowed travelers to forgo the looking and waiting that smaller one-way bridges necessitated.
Others were “combination” bridges, with train
tracks on top of the roadway. If the old story of
horses being saved from the horrors of glinting